Tyler A. Green

In Transit

Denver’s A Line Opens with Fanfare

Friday was a celebration worthy of Duke Ellington and John Hickenlooper. “Take the ‘A’ Train” was finally a meaningful phrase for the Denver metro area! Unfortunately, only one of them could make an appearance, while the other’s legacy lives on.  Relive the opening of the RTD University of Colorado A Line with my photo journey below!

The first bus route of the day: Transfort's FLEX from downtown Fort Collins to Boulder. My friend Austin joined me four stops later and we were on our way!

The first bus route of the day: Transfort’s FLEX from downtown Fort Collins to Boulder. My friend Austin joined me four stops later and we were on our way!

Boulder BCycle bike share bikes outside the Downtown Boulder Center. BCycle is the same provider as Denver's bike share, while Fort Collins recently opened with Zagster.

Boulder BCycle bike share bikes sit outside the Downtown Boulder Station. BCycle is also the operator of Denver’s bike share, while Fort Collins’ recently opened with Zagster.

The bus arrival board in Downtown Boulder Station was quite comprehensive, and similar to the one's found in Union Station.

The bus arrival board in Downtown Boulder Station was quite comprehensive, and similar to the ones found in Union Station.

Our second bus of the day: RTD AB from Downtown Boulder Station to DIA! I had not expected a coach-style bus. The driver was initially confused that we wanted return transfer slips. Apparently not many people taking the airport bus return same day! Obviously, they hadn't met transit enthusiasts like us yet.

Our second bus of the day: RTD AB from Downtown Boulder Station to DIA! I had not expected a coach-style bus. The driver was initially confused that we wanted return transfer slips. Apparently not many people taking the airport bus return same day! Obviously, they hadn’t met transit enthusiasts like us yet.

Our first look of 'Denver Airport' station on the new RTD A line! This was taken from the overlook just below the lobby of the new Westin at DIA.

Our first look of ‘Denver Airport’ station on the new RTD A line! This was taken from the overlook just below the lobby of the new Westin at DIA.

The lobby of the Westin reminded me of iconic jet age images, many lost with the destruction of the Pan Am Worldport. One bank of windows overlooks the A line, while the other looks across a pavilion outside the Jeppesen Terminal.

The lobby of the Westin reminded me of iconic jet age images, many lost with the destruction of the Pan Am Worldport. One bank of windows overlooks the A line, while the other looks across a pavilion outside the Jeppesen Terminal.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper speaks at the opening for the Regional Transportation District University of Colorado A Line at Denver International Airport on Friday, April 22, 2016. Did I do the AP caption style correctly? Anyway, I should have put the over/under on the number of speakers at 9.5. And taken the over. Except for the protesters up in arms over the $9 fare that began shouting midway through the ceremony, everything went as expected.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper speaks at the opening for the Regional Transportation District University of Colorado A Line at Denver International Airport on Friday, April 22, 2016. Did I do the AP caption style correctly? Anyway, I should have put the over/under on the number of speakers at 9.5. And taken the over. Except for the protesters up in arms over the $9 fare that began shouting midway through the ceremony, everything went as expected.

After the ceremony, the public lined up at the "BOARD TRAINS HERE" sign backed by the baby blue branding <a style="display: inline;" href="https://twitter.com/greent_tyler/status/724050085437300737" target="_blank">found everywhere</a> for the #TrainToThePlane. A media run of the train had taken place earlier that morning, so they did not mingle in line with us plebs. While we waited, a band played Duke Ellington's "Take the 'A' Train."

After the ceremony, the public lined up at the “BOARD TRAINS HERE” sign backed by the baby blue branding found everywhere for the #TrainToThePlane. A media run of the train had taken place earlier that morning, so they did not mingle in line with us plebs. While we waited, a band played Duke Ellington’s “Take the ‘A’ Train.”

The five-story escalator from the Westin pavilion to the A line station is the longest in Colorado. And it has art! The visualizations on the back wall were projected out of the fake rocks on the wall. #TheFutureIsHere

The five-story escalator from the Westin pavilion to the A line station is the longest in Colorado. And it has art! The visualizations on the back wall were projected out of the fake rocks on the wall. #TheFutureIsHere

The public makes its way to the first ride on the A line!

The public makes its way to the first ride on the A line!

A portrait to go down in transit lore. If I had been clever in the moment, upon seeing the University of Colorado graphics on the side of the train, I would have said, "That's a wrap!"

A portrait to go down in transit lore. If I had been clever in the moment, upon seeing the University of Colorado graphics on the side of the train, I would have said, “That’s a wrap!”

I wasn't kidding about the baby blue. It was everywhere. We boarded this car!

I wasn’t kidding about the baby blue. It was everywhere. We boarded this car!

The inside of the commuter rail vehicle was immaculate! It had that new train smell. I was taken aback by the imbalanced seating and had to make sure we hadn't accidentally boarded a plane. The vehicles have a top speed of 79 MPH.

The inside of the commuter rail vehicle was immaculate! It had that new train smell. I was taken aback by the imbalanced seating and had to make sure we hadn’t accidentally boarded a plane. The vehicles have a top speed of 79 MPH.

I was excited to finally ride the A line! And if you had asked if my baby blue shirt was in honor of the #TrainToThePlane, I would have answered, "Yes."

I was excited to finally ride the A line! And if you had asked if my baby blue shirt was in honor of the #TrainToThePlane, I would have answered, “Yes.”

I tweeted back and forth with Lisa from @RideRTD and she tracked me down and gave me a sweet squeezy train! I was so calm for the rest of the ride. We departed four minutes early on the inaugural public run of the A line!

I tweeted back and forth with Lisa from @RideRTD and she tracked me down and gave me a sweet squeezy train! I was so calm for the rest of the ride. We departed four minutes early on the inaugural public run of the A line!

The station at 38th and Blake was ready for passengers! Other stations had lines of people waiting to board the first outbound train.

The station at 38th and Blake was ready for passengers! Other stations had lines of people waiting to board the first outbound train.

We passed behind Coors Field as we arrived to Union Station. The Rockies would play (and beat!) the Dodgers on that ground later that day.

We passed behind Coors Field as we arrived to Union Station. The Rockies would play (and beat!) the Dodgers on that ground later that day.

The first passengers arriving at Union Station on the A line!

The first passengers arriving at Union Station on the A line!

We made it! The platform is the first at Union Station with at-grade boarding. Both the light rail vehicles and Amtrak trains require passengers to go up steps to board.

We made it! The platform is the first at Union Station with at-grade boarding. Both the light rail vehicles and Amtrak trains require passengers to go up steps to board.

The passengers on the right wait their turn for a ride on the A line, while those on the left celebrate a smooth inaugural ride.

The passengers on the right wait their turn for a ride on the A line, while those on the left celebrate a smooth inaugural ride.

I love this view because the commuter rail vehicle reminds me of the MTA rolling stock. Denver finally has commuter rail!

I love this view because the commuter rail vehicle reminds me of the MTA rolling stock. Denver finally has commuter rail!

Downtown Denver has come a long way in the last few years. The #TrainToThePlane sits proudly and personified on the backside of Union Station in this photo.

Downtown Denver has come a long way in the last few years. The #TrainToThePlane sits proudly and personified on the backside of Union Station in this photo.

The tracks at Union Station have a neat roof structure! Which doesn't provide much actual roof-age. But it makes for cool photos! Two buildings in development can be seen at the end of the platforms, which will provide even more residential and retail buzz for the LoDo area.

The tracks at Union Station have a neat roof structure! Which doesn’t provide much actual roof-age. But it makes for cool photos! Two buildings in development can be seen at the end of the platforms, which will provide even more residential and retail buzz for the LoDo area.

The queue to board the A line to DIA wrapped around the side of Union Station by the time we arrived on the first train. A public train had left Union Station towards DIA at the same time as ours. The tunnel in the foreground is the entrance to the underground bus depot.

The queue to board the A line to DIA wrapped around the side of Union Station by the time we arrived on the first train. A public train had left Union Station towards DIA at the same time as ours. The tunnel in the foreground is the entrance to the underground bus depot.

The interior of Union Station was bustling! Cities take note: this is a public space to die for.

The interior of Union Station was bustling! Cities take note: this is a public space to die for.

Taking a break from transit, Austin and I made our way up 16th Street Mall to the state capitol!

Taking a break from transit, Austin and I made our way up 16th Street Mall to the state capitol!

One of the stairs near the doors to the capitol is etched with the phrase "One Mile Above Sea Level." The Mile High City, indeed!

One of the stairs near the doors to the capitol is etched with the phrase “One Mile Above Sea Level.” The Mile High City, indeed!

We exercised our rights as citizens willing to walk through a metal detector to experience the rotunda of the Colorado capitol dome.

We exercised our rights as citizens willing to walk through a metal detector to experience the rotunda of the Colorado capitol dome.

The interior of the capitol reminded me of the Minnesota state capitol in St. Paul! Both are incredibly ornate and stately, but feel a tad smaller than the U.S. Capitol building.

The interior of the capitol reminded me of the Minnesota state capitol in St. Paul! Both are incredibly ornate and stately, but feel a tad smaller than the U.S. Capitol building.

There were even representatives working in the Colorado House of Representatives chamber! Considering this was a Friday afternoon, I guess I shouldn't be surprised. The speakers at the ceremony had just praised these individuals' bipartisanship and its impact on the passage and completion of the A line.

There were even representatives working in the Colorado House of Representatives chamber! Considering this was a Friday afternoon, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The speakers at the ceremony had just praised these individuals’ bipartisanship and its impact on the passage and completion of the A line.

We joined up with a capitol tour just in time to catch a trip up to the dome!

We joined up with a capitol tour just in time to catch a trip up to the dome!

The views looking westward were stunning! Unfortunately, the mountains were more impressive in real life. It was neat to think how all the grass between the capitol and city building had been covered with fans (including myself!) during the Broncos Super Bowl Parade and celebration just a few short months ago.

The views looking westward were stunning! Unfortunately, the mountains were more impressive in real life. It was neat to think how all the grass between the capitol and city building had been covered with fans (including myself!) during the Broncos Super Bowl Parade and celebration just a few short months ago.

The flags cooperated as I snapped a photo of the city building and the rounded Denver Post building. 16th Street Mall can be seen on the far right.

The flags cooperated as I snapped a photo of the city building and the rounded Denver Post building. 16th Street Mall can be seen on the far right.

And continuing the northward pan, this was the view of downtown Denver from the capitol dome.

And continuing the northward pan, this was the view of downtown Denver from the capitol dome.

This was the staircase we took to reach the dome level at the capitol. I filmed a brief episode for the Discovery Channel in my mind during the trips up and down.

This was the staircase we took to reach the dome level at the capitol. I filmed a brief episode for the Discovery Channel in my mind during the trips up and down.

Walking back towards Union Station, we made our last pass through Civic Center Station. The end-of-line for the Mall Ride is slated for replacement by something glassier, according to Austin.

Walking back towards Union Station, we made our last pass through Civic Center Station. The end-of-line for the Mall Ride is slated for replacement by something glassier, according to Austin.

This semi-protected bike lane on Lawrence Street reminded us that on a day that a train stole the show, mobility options do not stop with heavy rail.

This semi-protected bike lane on Lawrence Street reminded us that on a day that a train stole the show, mobility options do not stop with heavy rail.

We made the journey back to Fort Collins using the Flatiron Flyer “bus rapid transit” from Union Station to Boulder. From there, the FLEX took us north onto the MAX guideway and to our respective stops in FoCo. Our $9 regional RTD day passes worked as fare for both the AB and the Flyer. The A line was free for opening day, and I used my Transfort year pass to board the FLEX. This means, we traveled to Denver and back for only nine dollars. Without Transfort passes, the total would have been $11.50. Once the A line begins revenue service, this route will cost $20.50. Regardless, transit has come a long way in northern Colorado and our (very circuitous) route showed that mobility has reached new heights.

I am excited for the rest of the FasTracks program and am thrilled we had the chance to experience the first public run of the #TrainToThePlane.

Until next time Denver opens a train line, ride on!

Have you gotten to ride the A line yet? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below!

2 Comments

  1. Why did you go to Boulder first? Could you have taken Transfort to Longmont? It seems like Boulder takes you a bit further west than you need to go. Or isn’t there a bus between Longmont and Union Station that would have worked?

    If you ever get a chance to do a tour of Union Station, take it! The hotel rooms are really interesting, as are all the other little ways they updated it while keeping as much of the original fabric of the building as possible.

    A squeezy train?!!! That had me cracking up. :-)

    • The trip to Boulder was just for transit novelty! I hadn’t ridden the FLEX or Flatiron Flyer before, and the AB coach was a pleasant surprise. Bustang and then an RTD bus to the airport would have been much more efficient.

      Yes, I definitely want to spend more time in Union Station! It’s such a magical urban space!

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